I love a plantation. I know that is not really politically correct to say but it is true. Rather I love the old antebellum homes and the beautiful land they lie on. I connect somehow to that old Southern tradition of living. From the moment I landed in New Orleans it was the only thing I really wanted to do. I didn't get a chance on that first trip because of my work schedule but when I returned the following year Thanksgiving weekend with my family, it was on my itinerary.
Oak Alley Plantation is just want you imagine when you think of a historic looking Southern style home. The raw natural beauty it bestows leaves me speechless at times. I can look at my photos over and over again and continue to be in awe.
Oak Alley Plantation has a one hundred and seventy-eight hundred year history. Originally called the Bon Sejour Plantation, which is French for “have a nice stay”.
The oak trees that give the plantation its current name precede any buildings on this property. Valcour Aime purchased the land in 1830 to grow and produce sugar cane. In the year of 1836 Aime exchanged this piece of property with his brother-in-law Jacques Roman. Roman was the one who commissioned the home that exists today, which was completed in 1839. Both the mansion and the sugar cane were largely the result of slave labor from the men, women, and children who worked and lived on the estate.
The duration of the Roman family’s history here concludes in 1866 a year after the Civil War ended. Neither the grounds nor the “Big House” was damaged due to the fighting. After the patriarch died the family fell into financial ruin leaving the sale of Oak Alley as the only option.
In 1866 The Armstrongs bought it for thirty-two thousand dollars. They were a newly married couple from San Antonio, Texas, who had just returned from their honeymoon in Europe. It is said that Mrs. Armstrong fell in love with the duel rows of oak trees that line the pathway to the house.
Eventually The Armstrongs too could no longer afford to live on the plantation and a large portion of the mansion needed significant work.
In 1925 Andrew and Josephine Stewart purchased Oak Alley for fifty-thousand dollars and sunk another sixty-thousand dollars into it for repairs.
A virus in the 1900s had killed all of the sugar cane crop so The Stewarts decided to establish a cattle ranch on the property since that was what they knew.
Sugar cane was able to reintroduced during the 1960s.
This was the last family to own and live in the residence. The Stewarts had no children and Mr. Stewart passed away in 1946. Mrs. Stewart lived in the home until she passed away in 1972. Prior to her death she had established The Oak Alley Foundation which granted funding and access to the public so that they could tour the mansion as well as the grounds. During her lifetime she commonly hosted students, friends, neighbors, and some members of the public, so that she could share her love of this special place with others.
The public tour includes all twenty-five acres of the plantation. There is the main house, formal gardens, old car garage, a blacksmith shop, the Stewarts graves, as well as slave quarters. Be sure to get here early to have enough time to tour all of the outside sights before your mansion tour begins. Since I had taken a bus tour there my time was limited so I saw as much as I could. I was really just anxious to get into that house!
Considering how exquisite the mansion is from the outside you assume the inside is gigantic. It is not. The square design has only four bedrooms and had an identical layout on either side of the centralized hallway.
When I was there photos were not allowed indoors so this is all from memory. I clearly remember the formal living room thinking it would be the perfect room for a cocktail hour like you would have seen in the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”.
The rooms were not extravagant and most of the furniture, artwork, and belongings on display were from The Stewarts.
While The Stewarts remodel including putting a kitchen indoors, it had originally been located outside as to not overheat the home. This is a pre-air conditioning residence. If I lived here that is probably the only thing I would have to change.
To cool the home during those brutal Southern summer months there was a very large wooden fan that extended in the dining room where a small slave child would have been made to operate it. It was a different time. Today there is no sugar cane, no cattle.
The tour was about an hour and was glorious. That mansion was beautiful but those oaks on the ground are even more spectacular in person than even the best photographs can demonstrate.
Oak Alley Plantation is so special in fact it was added to the list of National Historic Landmarks in 1974.
Even more impressive is that Elle Decor rated Oak Alley Plantation number eighteen on its list “50 Of The Most Famous Historic House in America”.
Oak Alley Plantation has had more than just fifteen minutes of fame. It has been featured in countless movies such as Interview With a Vampire, Primary Colors, Steel Magnolias, and Hush, Hush Sweet Charolette. Prior to my visit I was well aware of this history and it was part of the reason I selected this plantation to visit (http://bit.ly/2etigiX).
Oak Alley Plantation is only one of the eight historic homes on Elle Decor’s list that I have been too. I have also toured: Full House Post Card Row San Francisco, California (yet to blog about), Mark Twain House Hartford, Connecticut (http://bit.ly/2qYcdHN), Mercer Williams House Savannah, Georgia (http://bit.ly/2w0lguD) , Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Chicago, Illinois (http://bit.ly/2x0Xxya), Fallingwater Frank Lloyd Wright Mill Run, Pennsylvania (http://bit.ly/2gsEv9f), The Breakers Newport, Rhode Island (http://bit.ly/2vTNnud), and lastly, Graceland Memphis, Tennessee (http://bit.ly/2utmuBl).
I have been lucky in my travels. I hope to see the remainder of this list as I continue to cross new destinations off my ongoing life-long bucket list.
For those of who you want a glimpse inside of Oak Alley Plantation today, watch the video above.
Next up we have an adventure on the Mighty Mississippi!
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